Palestinian radical group Hamas' olive branch offered to its rival Fatah and the subsequent bilateral talks in Cairo signal a milestone in Middle East politics. The move represents a significant boost to Egypt-mediated Palestinian unity bid.
Hamas and Fatah have signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo, ending a decade-long rift between the two Palestinian factions. Hamas' move to scrap the contentious committee that governed Gaza and its pledge to form a national unity government, certainly offer an opportunity to the Mahmoud Abbas-led Fatah movement to achieve the much-needed reconciliation towards the fulfillment of their goal of a Palestinian state. "Unity and national reconciliation among all our Palestinian people is our strategic option to move forwards." a senior Hamas delegate at the Cairo meeting, Izzat Reshiq, declared.
Hamas' dissolution of its administrative committee and its pledge to hand over power to Fatah itself indicated a big development towards the reconciliation bid. "We have taken practical steps on the ground. The administrative committee no longer functions in Gaza and we are ready, starting now, to welcome the government of national consensus," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, was quoted by media, as saying recently.
It's not simply a change of mind on the part of the radical movement. But several factors like Gaza's tattered economy, massive unemployment and its dwindling infrastructure have contributed to the Hamas initiative. Hamas-ruled Gaza has also been going through a severe power crisis where electricity is supplied less than six hours a day, paralysing the city and its several departments.
Nevertheless, no one can doubt the sincerity of Hamas, and Fatah movement must use it to its advantage, forming a unity government. The action gains more credence as Cairo is playing a crucial role in bringing full reconciliation between the two factions. Egypt's President Fatah Al Sisi's recent call for Palestinian unity demonstrates the Arab country's much needed support to the Palestinians. The leader's call has undoubtedly given an impetus to the move.
The need of the hour is that Hamas should extend its effort to end its isolation by shunning radical policies and put itself in mainstream Palestinian politics. That could mean its acceptance in the Arab world.
The unifying development could surely give Palestinians an edge over Israel and pose a formidable challenge to the Jewish state which has continued to take advantage of the Palestinian discord. At the same time, Tel Aviv will take heart from the prospects of a possible change in Hamas charter. In the process of reconciliation and Hamas' tilt towards the moderate Fatah and its sharing of power with its rival, the Hamas could scrap its charter to liquidate Israel. Al Sisi's call for Palestinian co-existence with the Jewish state validates this contention.
In such case, this would be a major test for Tel Aviv, as it has always used tactics to scuttle the idea of a Palestinian state. The fact is that Israel continued to blackmail Fatah for keeping any truck with Hamas with the twin intention of scuttling the peace process as well as its propaganda of unfounded potential threat to its existence by Hamas. But as Hamas is on its road to turning a new leaf Israel could find itself in a tight spot over its dilly dallying on resumption of talks. The problem is the Jewish state has not made its intention clear regarding its peace with the Palestinians. It is in this context that Israel has been building settlements arbitrarily and in defiance of international opinion.
The United Nations development agency in its recent report said the Jewish state's settlement activities and confiscations of land belonging to Palestinians, water and other resources are giving rise to poverty and unemployment among Palestinians. It has also intensified its settlement activities, with a 40 per cent hike in 2016 as compared to 2015.
The success of the Palestinian unity depends on how Hamas and Fatah arrive at a consensus on a national unity government. Israeli reaction to the move will also shape the reconciliation and the peace process as it could put forward its excuses regarding the Hamas charter against the Jewish state and also try to scuttle Palestinian unity bid by unleashing its propaganda machine.
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